Space Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre, Sat 13 Jan.
Exposing Edith begins in 1935 with Edith and her half-sister busking on the streets of Paris. There she is discovered by Louis Leplée and invited to sing in his nightclub. Thus began her journey to being ‘the best known voice in the world’.
Adelaide’s own Michaela Burger has a remarkable singing voice and is also a great story teller. By her own admission she has been obsessed with Piaf and loves sharing details of her life. Her no-holds barred tell all approach is entirely appropriate for one who was described as someone who could only sing songs inspired by her life. To fully appreciate Piaf’s songs you need to know how the songs were born.
The many details of Piaf’s life made fascinating listening. Her early life was hardly ideal (she lived her early years in a brothel) but she could clearly be quite difficult. She always got her own way, and was in love with the idea of being love, rather than being attached to any particular lover. From Hymne a L’Amour (A Hymn to Love):
“Little matters to me if you love me
I couldn’t care less about the whole world
As long as love will flood my mornings.”
Burger moves neatly between the roles of narrator and the Piaf persona, and her delivery of Piaf’s songs sounded totally and authentically French to my Anglo ear. The songs oozed feeling – Burger sings from the heart and you don’t need to understand the words to enjoy them and identify with the emotion they convey.
Complete with beret, Greg Wain (Gregoir) on guitar was a splendid foil for Burger’s vocals. Technology and looping sounds leant a modern touch to old songs and at one point Burger’s singing directly into the guitar’s sound hole triggers some curiously ambient echoes.
A Piaf classic, Milord, was performed in and amongst the crowd as a sing-along, and though Burger’s Piaf delivers Non, Je ne regrette rien (No, I don’t regret anything)with total conviction, Piaf’s is a bittersweet story of success and early demise. It’s yet another story of fame that came at great price, as is lovingly told here, and the chansons d’amour were elegant and seductive.
Cover image by Matt Craig
Central image by Brendan Dennis